transitive verb \sə-ˈpȯrt\
: to agree with or approve of (someone or something)
: to show that you approve of (someone or something) by doing something
: to give help or assistance to (someone or something)
There are many definitions for the word support. And many arguments within the parenting community about what that word should mean, could mean, does mean.
Does it mean that you agree with someone's choices, 100 percent?
Does it mean holding up signs and getting media attention for "stopping the mommy wars"?
Does it mean demanding equal representation, equal respect?
Does it mean something global, local, or personal?
You'd think that because we included "support" in our organization's name, we'd have a clear definition in mind, a way to clearly explain what the word means to us. But the truth is, we don't. When we started #ISupportYou, it was just a hashtag; a vague idea that we wanted to make all moms feel included, and worthy of support and community. We knew we wanted to show the world that the way we feed our babies doesn't define us; that we are not "breastfeeding moms" or "formula feeding moms" but moms, and women, and individuals, and employees, and sisters, and spouses, and girlfriends, and daughters, and friends. We wanted to help other moms reach out to each other and recognize that at our cores, we all want the same thing: to be seen. To be heard. To matter.
This year, ISY is taking this vague idea of support to the next level. We want to put actions to words, to go beyond some glossy media idea of what support looks like, and get down and dirty with what it feels like. That's why we're hoping you'll join us for our inaugural #ISupportYou Week, going on now, Nov. 1-7th, 2014.
During ISY Week, we're encouraging everyone to take all the energy we waste on silly online arguments to the streets of our own communities, and beyond. Find a way to bring one of the many definitions of "support" to life. Better yet, decide what support means to you, and do something about it. It can be something small, or something big. We've put together a list of our own ideas, but we're excited to hear your ideas, too.
Between now and Nov. 7th, do one thing to bring the ISY message from virtual to flesh-and-blood life. It can be one of ours, or one of yours. Then tell us about it. Tweet or post about it, using the hashtags #isupportyou and/or #ISYweek. Write a blog post about it, or shoot us an email so that we can share your stories on our blogs, and inspire others to drink the kool-aid. (It's delicious. We promise.)
Ideas for #ISupportYou Week:
1. Be a Coupon Fairy. Leave coupons for formula, bottles, diapers, or breastfeeding supplies in the baby aisles of your local stores, attached to post-it notes with the #ISupportYou hashtag and a short, encouraging message to whatever random parent finds it.
2. Pay it forward. Pay for a mom or dad's coffee, etc., when s/he's behind you in line with a screaming baby, or just looks exhausted or overwhelmed.
3. Volunteer at your local women's shelter. Lead a breastfeeding support group, a formula feeding group, or an #ISupportYou group (details to come).
4. Bring a care basket to a new mom. Include items that support her feeding choice, but more importantly, items just for HER... M&M's, lip balm, sitz bath, magazines, pretty water bottle, cozy socks, notepad/pen, note of encouragement, hair ties, etc.
5. Donate generic new mom care baskets to local domestic violence or homeless shelters, with wipes, diapers, food and other useful items.
6. Bring breakfast pastries/bagels to your next new mom's support group
7. Mail three real letters to moms that you know, with message of encouragement
8. Leave post-it notes with the #ISupportYou hashtag and encouraging messages everywhere. Attach them to extra packs of wipes in a public changing area, or stick them on bulletin boards at the play place down the street.
9. Commit to setting up an #ISupportYou (ISY) group in your community in 2015. We are currently developing materials to help interested people start these groups, and hope to see some popping up in early 2015. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
10. Do a teach-in with a group of pregnant mom friends on feeding 101. Ask a friend who feeds differently than you do to co-host it.
11. Ask your partner how s/he felt in the postpartum period, and what would've helped him/her feel more supported. Then, make a point to do that for a new non-primary-caregiver parent. They matter, and they get forgotten way too often.
12. Donate your feeding items to a local homeless/domestic violence shelter.
13. Share ISY with your care providers -- OB, pediatrician, therapist, daycare provider, etc. -- so that they know where to guide new parents for support.
14. Find a way to support a mom who feeds in a different way than you do. Wash bottles at her house, buy her a can of formula, buy her a care package of lanolin and fancy breast pads, etc.
15. FEED HER! Find a new mom (or even better, a not so new mom, who needs it more!) and make/send dinner. Or breakfast that is easy to reheat (egg sandwiches, casserole, etc). Fresh fruit, surprise morning coffee, all with a note of encouragement.
16. Set up a time each day that you will text a mom friend who needs encouragement (every day at 10:30 I will text her a "love note").
17. Call your local breastfeeding center and ask if they have any needs (scholarship fund for classes, etc.)
18. Lead a "safe use of formula" workshop for daycare providers
19. Ask to have a chat with facilitators of New Parent Support Groups, and encourage them to be inclusive to all feeding methods in their sessions.
20. Call a local teen mother's group and volunteer to be a breastfeeding or formula feeding mentor/peer counselor.
21. Do something kind for YOURSELF. Write a letter to your nine months pregnant self, or your 3 months postpartum self, telling her how proud you are, tips you've learned, etc.
We really hope you'll join us in cutting through the crap and getting new parents the help they need to feed - and parent -- with love, respect, and yes, support. Chat with us during the week on Twitter and Facebook to let us know how things are going. Share your ideas, your experiences, and your reactions. Let's get this party started, shall we?
It's time. For real.